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Broke boundaries and stereotypes with ‘NH10’: Anushka Sharma

Mumbai,Nayandeep Rakshit: Over a cup of simmering coffee, first-time producer Anushka Sharma explains why she always knew NH10 will work and discusses her upcoming production ventures.

Anushka Sharma in NH10

As an actor, you have taken multiple risks. NH10 must have been one of them. With its success, are you in a happy space now?

Actually, I never saw NH10 as a risk because you can call it my gut feeling, I always knew that this film is going to work. NH10 is very high on content and in terms of the genre, which is a thriller, I thought that people will enjoy something like that. There was no fear of whether it will work or not. My only fear was that if it does not work, I would still be making such films, but it would mean that probably people are not ready to see such films. These are the kind of films that I would like to make in future as well. This is more like an offbeat film, very different from the usual kind of films that we watch. NH10 has proven that these films do have a wide audience today because the kind of numbers the film has done over the weekend, it establishes my faith on my own conviction.

NH10 has left people thinking- What if it happens to me? Do you think that relatability helped the film receive a wider audience?

Exactly! I think everybody felt that they could be there in the same position and the same thing can happen to them as well. The fact that they were rooting for this character is not because of Anushka Sharma, but it’s because of the fear that what if the same happened to me. I went to the theatres to check out the reactions and not just girls, but there were guys who were on the edge of their seats thinking what’s going to happen next. That only happens when you kind of start living with the character on screen. I kept saying it during the promotions that just because you see a woman taking over the goons, it must be a film on women’s issues. But it is just showing you the mirror to the society and this is what you said rightly. It could happen to you, it could happen to me. She does not get victimized because she’s a woman. She gets victimized because she’s at the wrong place at the wrong time. That relatability is huge with this film and also people are aware of everything that is happening around today. Even with the issue with the Censor Board, we were like ‘Dude these things happen and that’s why we are gunning for it so much’. People see that and in Delhi, the theatre owners told me that the audiences are clapping at the end of the film because there, they totally get it. So it is a very relevant film.

Do you think making a film like NH10 will provide an opportunity to other filmmakers to try out something as different and rebellious as an NH10?

I just hope that with a film like this working out and with me initiating it, not just producers but I wish even actors come ahead and be a part of such films. Somewhere, I experienced something with NH10. By turning a producer for the film, I was somehow enabling everything to happen more easily. I was not adding additional burden to the cost of the film by being an actor. This way, we can ascertain that certain films which are a little tricky or unusual for studios to put money in will eventually happen. NH10 gives that faith to other actors too and not just the producers. I am not saying this to boast about myself, but a film like NH10 needs a mainstream actor to back it. Me backing NH10 gave it a wider reach so I hope other actors too take up the baton now.

Ever since your debut, there has been a paradigm shift in films- with small budget films like Vicky Donor, Kahaani, Queen, Badlapur all doing great numbers at the box office.

Definitely. It just goes on to show the shift that the audience has towards such particular films. Now they are drifted towards content driven films and stories because people today are more aware than ever. Social media has really helped and everyone today is quite quick with the knowledge and having the basic idea of the society. The world is becoming smaller because of the presence of social media. This shift is favouring such films as well. People are ready to watch films like these. When NH10 first came to me as an actor, I did feel that as an actor, it would be a great role for me to do. But that could not have been the only reason for me to do the film. A good role in a bad film means nothing. It has to be backed by a good film that comes as a complete package too. At that time, I was thinking that people will watch this film and the fact that NH10 could make me think that way (being a mainstream Hindi film heroine), it meant that there’s a shift that’s generally happening right now- with me, with you, with everyone around.

You have been part of big budgeted films that have rained crores at the box office. As a producer, do you feel a film like NH10 is more difficult to be made today?

For example a film like PK, you cannot compare it with NH10. It is a Rajkumar Hirani film- a separate genre of its own. Of course, Raju sir has tasted success with meaningful cinema and he also started as someone who experimented with new concepts in the industry. That’s what is happening today. PK is a script that’s backed by good writing as well. In a way, it has a huger commercial reach because of the topic that it dealt with and also because it has one of the nation’s biggest superstar acting in it. Definitely, it is meant to have a larger impact on the audience. NH10 is diametrically opposite to that on the impact front. It needed an exceptional story to make that impact. Although it did have me, NH10 is being loved all over because of the novel concept.

Out of the box films are working exceptionally well, thanks to a positive response to the films. Do you feel that a good word of mouth is becoming the new success factor in Bollywood?

There’s only a certain limit to what you can push yourself when it comes to publicity and promotions for a film. The amount that even a star can push their films to the audiences is still limited. It’s different for different stars but after that, it has to get a good word of mouth to get the figures it wants to achieve. There have been films which work brilliantly over the weekends and go dhap in the weekdays because it’s not a good film. Word of mouth not only accelerates a project but also ensures a constant growth. Word of mouth is ultimately people’s reactions to what you have made. It is a very normal approach to films and it’s been happening since ever. It’s not something new. But maybe because few films have worked solely on the basis of word of mouth, that too in quick succession, people are calling this the new norm. Nowadays, it just happens faster because it’s the day and age of the social media.

Has NH10’s success eased things for you?

It will definitely be much easier when we work on our second project and make our next film. We have got the credibility that we wanted as a production house and people now know that these guys actually know what they are making. So I m hoping that would help us a lot because we have so much more to make, we have many other plans in our head as to how to take the house forward. There are already few other scripts which we are looking into- new ones, different ideas which we would like to dabble with. Working with people like Navdeep and Sudeep gave me a high and as a matter of fact, we already have a couple of scripts that we are working on with them. In spite of being an A-list actor, my only hope was that once NH10 does well, it would be much easier to put out a film like this again. NH10 happened but since it was our maiden venture, it did not happen smoothly. So this time, I am sure it would happen more smoothly.

But have you ever felt that making a rom-com first would have been easier for you?

Yes, probably but I don’t like to be a part of the crowd. We did not put in too many songs, it was not a rom-com. Had it been one, it would have been an easy breeze. If you are an A-list actor and you are doing a romantic comedy, people will think ‘Chalo, haan, yehtohkar hi lenge’. But doing such films takes a slight amount of challenge and I love that.

Your brother played a big hand at encouraging you to turn a producer…

The production house is totally my brother’s brainchild. Even before NH10 happened, we (Anushka and her brother) have been collaborating with Navdeep and Sudeep and I think we make a great team. We are like-minded people and we appreciate the same kind of cinema. We love to jam with each other. My brother and me are very close and we would always watch a film and think why aren’t we making such films here? Our thinking is totally similar. He’s been a huge part of my career. All the films that I have decided to do and not decided to do, my brother has been a huge part of the discussion. I have not discussed anything with anyone from the industry but my brother. Who would do that? He voices the feelings better because it’s a normal person’s awaaz. He is not from the industry and he gives me the best advice always. He is like a brain- he gets what I want and he is very good at developing projects. On the working front, it has been great working with him. It has been awesome how we divided the responsibility between the two of us. With Navdeep and Sudeep, we would definitely like to put up few more projects which are not the usual run-of-the-mill projects. It will be very different and hatke.

Will you be acting in them as well?

Not necessarily. We have one project which is a much smaller film. I would not be acting in it because it does not require me at all. It does not need somebody like me in the film. Then, there’s another film where I might be acting in. So it depends. This is a really serious thing that we are dealing with and we would do everything that is right for the film. We have broken those boundaries and stereotypes with NH10. That’s the kind of films we would like to do. As of now, we have these two projects in mind. I am like the kid in school who will study a lot and I like doing the right things in a proper fashion. So does my brother. Taking corners or taking the easy way out by saying that ‘Main hi har film mein act kar leti hoon’ is not what we are going to do. Jahaan pe zarurat hai, wahaan pe act kar lungi.

Will the upcoming production ventures bring out a fraction of the Indian society too, like NH10?

I think they will always be socially responsible films. They might not be bringing up social issues. Even NH10 left you with a thought and it was not preachy. We used that garb of a thriller to say the whole thing because we have to entertain the audiences as well. We won’t be pinning on something in particular, but the stories will be based on very well etched characters like Meera was and very well etched worlds. The milieu of the film has to be proper.

Being a hands-on producer now, do you look at your other film projects (ones outside her production) from a producer’s point of view?

If I am not required to do something, I would not unnecessarily jump in and do it. It’s quite a hectic thing (laughs) so I don’t want to get into it just for the heck of it. I just want to be very economical and responsible as an actor. I want to help people who are making films and that just comes from compassion and understanding of people and respect for the project. (she signs off)

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